Does Spirituality Influence Health?
Is a stronger spiritual life directly related to a stronger physical health as well? For years, researchers have been trying to co-relate spirituality and its influence to physical health.
As it is, spirituality can improve a person’s ability to cope more with the environment that he is living in. Being able to nurture a strong and flourishing spiritual life despite today’s culture is a strong characteristic that may help a person in improving his mental, emotional and physical health. So how can spirituality affect these aspects of health?
• Spirituality helps in reducing stress and depression. One of the main teachings of spirituality is directed towards living with a positive outlook in life. An optimistic person dwells more on the bright side of things rather than on the negative. These actions help him reduce or eliminate anxiety, tension and probable signs of depression. In turn, being able to live a spiritual life with reduced negativity can affect a person’s nervous, cardiovascular and immune system. A medical research which was focused on senior citizens indicated that those who have a healthy practice of their spiritual and religious beliefs have stronger immunity system and lower blood pressure than the elderly subjects who already gave up on their beliefs.
• Spirituality can lead to a healthy lifestyle. One specific example of this would be those who are members of certain religions or sects whose beliefs prevent them from indulging in alcohol consumption, smoking and eating pork. Patients who are under rehabilitation for substance and alcohol abuse often undergo spiritual training which teaches them that the proper way to handle emotional turmoil would be to meditate and pray rather than turn to alcohol and drugs.
• Spirituality improves the body’s resistance to stress. A 1988 clinical study showed that spiritual women who underwent breast biopsies have lower stress levels in their hormones compared to those who lack spiritual beliefs. These women turned to their spiritual beliefs and prayers in order to cope with the stress that they felt during biopsy.
• Spirituality helps in increasing a person’s lifespan. Spirituality teaches a person to be more forgiving, improve their faith, and become more compassionate to others. In separate studies conducted among Harvard and Stanford students, results indicated that the graduates who exhibited strong spiritual beliefs were more likely to live longer and developed fewer illnesses.
Teachings which revolve around spirituality have distinct characteristics such as faith, hope, love, forgiveness and how the power of prayer and support can help a person during the most challenging times. A person who has strong spiritual beliefs opens up himself to the better side of life and prevents him from entertaining negative thoughts. Aside from that, a spiritual person has a better ability to cope and recuperate even when he encounters challenges and pitfalls because he receives a strong support system from the people who surrounds him. More importantly, it is easier for him to accept, forgive and move on with his life because he is aware that all things happen for a greater purpose.
What Encompasses Strong Spirituality
Spirituality is a state of mind that comes from communing with self and with the Supreme Being. While it is often said to be borne out of finding peace and purpose in one’s life, it is still often related to faith and religion. Quite commonly religion is the way by which a person finds that peace even in solitude. There are of course other ways by which an individual get in touch with one’s spirituality.
Regardless of the manner or process by which one attains spirituality, there is no question that spirituality is the power that drives how a person lives. One question that often bugs one’s consciousness is if their faith and spirituality are strong enough. To this effect, one may wonder what comprises strong spirituality. Here are some “classical” expectations:
• People with strong spirituality have unwavering faith to their religion or whatever philosophy that they embrace. This is manifested in the way they fiercely and boldly hold close their values in the face of adversity. They consider harsh conditions as trials to strengthen further their faith. They regard their spirituality as the fortress that defends them against hostilities.
• People with strong spirituality exhibit wholesome character whether they are confronted by grief and failure. They are happy and positive people who infect others with their optimism. They are kind, patient, caring, trustworthy, reliable, and selfless among other things. Hence, they are generally well-liked by people they know. They are a source of inspiration for the people around them.
• They are like magnets and their positive traits draw people to them. They enjoy good personal relationships with the people around them –their family, friend, fellow workers, and neighbors. They get all the support they need in the same way that they support their support to others who need it without being asked. They inspire people in a constructive way. People draw strength from highly spiritual people.
• They adhere to doing what is right and fair for others and for themselves. Thus, they avoid anything that can bring harm – alcohol, smoking, unhealthy diet, gambling, drugs and even people who can be vexations to their spirituality. Casting what may bring them and others to harm is something they do instinctively without being asked. They may still fall occasionally to dangers because that is what life us all about. Yet, they can scramble out of it and take the experience in a positive way, as a source of learning and further inspiration.
• One would know if they are spiritually strong when they can forego materialism and wealth because they are happy in their faith and contented with the basic things that they need to live. Succeeding is focused on being able to improve as a person to grow personally and for others. Material success means having the ability and opportunity to help others in need. Material bounty and resources are viewed as gifts from the Supreme Being that need to be used judiciously and wisely for the benefit of many.
People with strong faith need not focus on what comprises strong spirituality because these dawn on them naturally. Spirituality is like light that shines through them. They illumine the lives of others and are happy to be that. They are inspiring, happy, contented people that cannot just be defeated by life’s trials and crisis.
Understanding Spirituality As A Need In Life
Every human being has the goal of pursuing the things that he thinks will make him happy. Oftentimes, he will wish for a life devoid of pain and suffering. Because of these, man has constantly looked for ways on how to achieve this kind of life, but it can often lead to frustration. At times like these, a person may succumb in giving up his goal of living a better life or he may turn to his faith and spirituality that will allow him to lead a meaningful existence.
Spirituality is one aspect of life that should be present in every person. It should be a priority far higher than yearning for higher social status and material things. Keeping a strong spirituality is like knowing that a person can strive to have an almost-perfect life even if he doesn’t have the material possessions that he wants.
• Spirituality enhances emotional intelligence. Being able to deal with other people with tolerance and without unbiased judgment can be challenging. Other than that, it is also hard to handle emotions especially for those who have wronged the person. Having a strong spirituality means keeping an optimistic and positive outlook in life. With these attributes, a person can still exude a positive attitude even when the people that surround him are doing the exact opposite. Likewise, being able to dismiss negativity helps a person save his emotional energy for more important people and events in his life.
• Spirituality does not only make a person better, it also affects those who are close to him. A strong sense of spirituality opens up a lot of doors leading to positive events in life. When a person has a spiritual outlook, he attracts visions, ideas, and opportunities that allow him to grow better as a person. A spiritual person also exudes an aura of faithfulness, security and positive fearlessness which can prove to be fascinating to those who are around him. If a person shares his spirituality to others, he can also inspire them to lead a life where they can nurture their soul and enrich their relationships among others.
• Spirituality leads a person to work more efficiently and with less effort. When a person embodies a strong spirituality, he is aware that things happen for a reason. With this, he will work smart in achieving his goals, but he will not work and waste his efforts in forcing the events that are not yet ripe to be taken. Being able to recognize that there is a higher power and submitting to it lets a person align his goals according to the laws of spirituality.
Leading a spiritual life helps a person in achieving his aspirations and dreams in a positive and ethical way. A spiritual person has the ability to silence his inner turmoil and turn towards the more optimistic view. Nurturing a strong sense of spirituality also helps him overcome whatever obstacles that he encounters, knowing that he is not alone in facing the challenges that comes in his life.
Using Spirituality To Better Cope With Stress
The big S that people battle each day of their lives have put away so many futures because not everyone can or have successfully managed it. Stress is a daily companion that is unwanted but which persists to be there from morn till you doze off to the dreamland. It can make people unhappy, agitated, short-tempered, and more vulnerable to mental disorders and other medical conditions as the immune system is weakened. Unmanaged, it can lead to depression and drive a teen yonder to escape it.
It is therefore not surprising that countless number of people seek ways to be able to cope with daily stress. Some of these are negative like drug abuse, alcoholism and over eating. Some positive ways to deal with stress are exercise, getting into productive hobbies, and spirituality. Coping with stress through spirituality is something that is undeniably useful as one becomes enlightened, and as a person’s purpose in life becomes clearer, sensed and lived.
Finding Meaning In A Person’s Life
Contrary to what most people believe, the core value of spirituality is not always connected to religion, though it can be. The dawning of awareness about self and the development of one’s personal values generally leads a person to one’s discovery of spirituality. This is linked to religion because religion and faith are the most usual tools towards self-discovery. Embracing a philosophy like yoga that instills discipline through its Asanas (poses) and meditation by way of Pranayama (breathing) can lead one into the awareness of self. This is important as this is the beginning od spirituality.
How Spirituality Relieves Stress
The most important achievement that spirituality can deliver to a believer is the discovery of one’s sense of existence or reason of being. This makes a person depart from materialism to move towards the attainment of the more valuable matters that define one’s faith and spirituality. Thus, stress becomes just another unnecessary thing that holds no importance to the person’s life. Stress becomes an unnecessary burden that tends to weigh down people’s mind and emotions. This affects the heart beat, the pressure of the blood, the functioning of many organs and the weakening of the immune system.
Inner serenity is achieved without effort despite solitude as one develops the connection with others and as one’s values are removed from everything material. With chi or qi (positive energy), one becomes like a magnet that draws people and relationships. This gives one the outlet to release, share or discuss with others their stressful problems that effectively reduce the intensity of emotions. As one learns to unload fears, phobias, apprehensions, anxiety, pain, anger and other negative emotions, the more that they become stronger physically, psychologically, socially, and emotionally.
Spirituality also tends to direct a person towards a healthier lifestyle and well being. Quite frequently, stressful conditions at work, at home, and in relationships tend to be aggravated when one is unhealthy. Therefore, a healthy lifestyle and habits brought about by spirituality help a lot in reducing and battling stress. Quite frankly, it is easy for a healthy person to be happy, contented, enthusiastic, friendly, calm and socially interactive.
Spirituality has a big role to play in any person’s life. Coping with stress through spirituality benefits a person in some big positive way. If you are struggling from stress and have tried many ways to get it off your back unsuccessfully, maybe it is good to try spirituality this time. So if you want to achieve that higher sense of enlightenment and cope with daily stress in life, find means to practice spirituality!
The History Of Spirituality’s Role In Health Care
Medicine and health care in most traditions started out with healers who used spirituality as the way of curing medical conditions. These traditions, however, were taken into the backseat during the era of scientific medical revolution. In the next years following the revolution of science and medicine and with the newest innovations and scientific researches in medical technology, there is little view of how spirituality can play a great role in health care.
In the early 1400s, Greek philosophers and healers had a holistic view of medicine. This meant that a person can only be cured of his illness if his mind, body and spirit are all in good health. This kind of belief was widespread throughout the 15th century. The same belief was prevalent all over Europe and Christianity at that period also employed the idea of spirituality as a part of the healing process. However, between the 1400s and the start of the 1600, the establishment of the Catholic Church became more strengthened. During this period, medical discoveries were also beginning to resurface. But since the Church had opposing views with the sciences, the medical world was split into two beliefs and thus, science and spirituality were never combined in early medicine. Because it was believed that spirituality can never become a part of healing and health care, it was also during this period when witch trials became more pervasive, and even midwives who assisted women during their childbirth were accused of witchcraft and burned at the stakes.
During the 17th century, another concept was introduced to the world- dualism. Thus, spirituality was recognized as a tool for healing. However, the boundaries of spirituality as a medium of healing was only limited and focused towards the restoration of the mind and the spirit. Physical health care and treatment were still under the monopoly of science and medicine. It continued within the end of the 19th century when Churches still consider autopsy as blasphemy and at the same time, medical innovations and discoveries were all concentrated towards the scientific aspect of health care, leaving spirituality as a subject that should be tackled by the Church alone.
It was only during the 1950s when Albert Einstein, along with other great minds, formulated the theory of relativity and the concept that all matters and space actually possess an interrelation with each other. With these ideas, noetic science was born. In this area of medicine, it is suggested that a person’s spiritual and religious beliefs as well as his spiritual history can influence and affect the physical aspects of his life. Because of the introduction of this new area of medical science which explores the inner experiences of a person rather than merely his physical attributes, it paved way to medical researches which showed how spirituality can pose a great effect in a person’s health.
Today, the reunion of spirituality and health care is still under constant tension and discussions. It cannot, however, disprove the fact that spirituality plays a crucial role in improving a person’s well-being, not only in the emotional and mental facets, but in the physical aspects as well.
Spirituality in health care today is considered as one of the most traditional and ancient practices, although employing spirituality in medicine has faded during the boom of scientific innovations. Because of its efficacy in improving some health conditions, spirituality in health care is now being introduced yet again in the medical practice.
Spirituality in Mental Health Care
Spirituality and faith can play a crucial role when it comes to dealing with a person’s emotional and mental health. When a person is under a mental or emotional struggle, the only area that he can find solace in is his faith. When it comes to dealing with mental health, medical research has found that spirituality can affect a person in coping with his illness. Another study showed that patients who have stronger connection in their religious beliefs have higher possibility to recover from their disorders. Additionally, keeping a strong spirituality can instill optimism and positive energy even when a person is being treated with health complication. These two effects of spirituality serve as key factors in reducing the depression that a person can experience when he is ill.
Spirituality in Physical Health Care
Traditional Western medicine often deems spirituality and physical health as two aspects that might not complement each other. However, there are certain studies that also showed how faith can actually help while a patient is being treated from a certain disease. One study which was conducted among elderly and more mature patients showed that patients who exhibit stronger connections with their spiritual and religious life are less prone to experience depression and they have a lower rate of deterioration in their physical health. Additionally, they have healthier immune systems and lower blood pressure.
A supplemental research also showed that religious and spiritual patients who underwent open-heart surgeries had higher chance of survival than patients who had no connections with spiritual groups. Patients with strong spiritual lives who are diagnosed with chronic illnesses such as diabetes, cancer, and heart diseases also cope better and have higher chances of recuperation. In programs for alcoholic rehabilitations such as Alcoholics Anonymous, experts observed that spirituality can play a huge part in educating the patients that they can avoid substance and alcohol abuse if they turn to prayer and meditation instead.
The reason for these might be that spirituality teaches how to maintain strong faith, nurture relationships and help patients in focusing their energy to more worthwhile activities such as meditation, prayer, conversing with positive people and doing volunteer work. These activities prevent them from focusing on their health problems and eliminate looming possibilities of anxiety and depression
Improving Mental Health Through Spirituality
Spirituality is said to be borne out of humanity’s quest for purpose and mission in life. Such is not an easy task as it could mean a quest that can take a lifetime! However, many people have also experienced enrichment in their spirituality even at a young age or right in their middle age. So it’s fair to say that it’s achievable, and it’s just a matter of how one seeks such enlightenment.
But then many would ask: Why must one seek spirituality? Regardless of culture, race, and geographical situation, spirituality is a major influence in a person’s life – in thinking and in how a person lives. It is so powerful that it can affect every facet of a person’s life. It can even affect one’s mental health. You may ask how spirituality improves mental health.
Do you know that there were some studies made in Northern Ireland that show how prayers can improve the mental health of the patients? Amazingly, most patients were seen to have reduced signs of agitation, inappropriate emotional expression and other psychiatric symptoms. Their mindsets visibly improved evidenced by their modified behaviors. Is it hard to believe? For the medical scientists, it is unusual, even mystical. It is hard to believe but the growing evidences are proving that indeed spirituality can improve mental health. For the believers, this is something that is not only possible; these all happen for a reason.
To make a heads and tails about the entire phenomenon, let us look at spirituality. What is spirituality and why can it bring about such improvement to people with mental sickness? Spirituality is best described as practices and beliefs that grow depending to each individual’s values and philosophies in life. Most people reach spirituality as they get in touch with their self and the Supreme Being. This directs them towards better understanding life’s values and of the particular values that they want to live by. This gives them a purpose and a mission in this life.
How does this influences mental health. Mental health refers to the psychological well being of a person. Being mentally healthy is evident in a person’s various manifestations and feelings. Most individuals suffering from mental health disorder tend to cope slower with today’s technology and other new lessons that demand learning adjustments. They have difficulty adjusting with life’s changes which, as we know, happen all the time.
Spirituality encompasses almost about everything in a person and how one lives and relate with other people. It drives one to be a good person, happy and interacting well with others. One adopts what one believes are right, ethical, moral including a healthy, stress-free lifestyle. One surrenders all difficulties to the Supreme Being; they diminish such stresses as merely trials that make them stronger. These help people to get stronger mentally. Unaffected by stresses, anxiety and depression, one copes better in the face of all life’s problems.
It is true that this way of looking at how spirituality improves mental health is not very popular among medical scientists. It is, however, also true that this notion is getting much support from those people who understand the miracles of spirituality. Indeed there are just too many conflicting views about the way spirituality can make mental Today, the connection between spirituality and mental health bring hopes to a lot of patient suffering from mental disorder. Spiritual intervention is now being introduced in many mental health care facilities In this concept, spirituality does not argue with science; rather it help improves the well being of every patient with mental health disorder.
In conclusion, if you have family, friends or co-worker suffering from mental health problems, why not try spiritual intervention. Statistics show more and more patient recover faster with spirituality.